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I consult Irma Rombauer and Julia and Escoffier or Larousse and then I go ahead and do it my way."" So M. F. K. Fisher told former New York Times food writer Fussell--who, like many of us, also proceeds by consulting them all and creating her own ""synthesis."" Fussell, though, has chosen to share her personal amalgamations, and the result is a collection of recipes accompanied by introductory notes which may quote Claiborne, Beard, and 19th-century cookbooks on the roasting of suckling pigs; cite Beard's and Claiborne's adaptations of Paula Wolfert's recipe for Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons; consider the issue of molasses in pork-and-beans as treated in sources from The Frugal Housewife to Julia Child and Company; or compare the hamburger recipes of the four American masters: M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and Craig Claiborne. The recipes that are ultimately presented here are sometimes taken from one of the masters, sometimes developed from several of them by Fussell, and sometimes un-attributed--with an emphasis on French and/or American tradition (but a sampling from China, Japan, and elsewhere). Fussell's own inclinations, rather than any vision of an integrated American cuisine or a call to offer a basic course in cooking, seem to determine the selection of dishes. By way of apology for her anthology approach, Fussell reminds us that ""the inventive Paul Bocuse once said [that] with recipes there are no inventions; there are only 'marriages.' "" In a way, then, Fussell is merely being more open and expansive about her method than are most recipe recyclers. Her background notes will interest casual cookbook readers who aren't up to doing their own mixing and choosing. Similarly, her appreciative introductory profiles of the four masters are bright, enjoyable pieces of the sort that might appear in the Times' ""Living"" section. That the four careers are already well publicized, and Fussell doesn't distinguish among individual contributions, limits the likely audience to the same casual readers.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1983
Publisher: Times Books